DETROIT — Justin Abdelkader had a hat trick and Dylan Larkin scored in his NHL debut, helping the Detroit Red Wings beat the Mike Babcock-led Toronto Maple Leafs 4-0 on Friday night.
Jimmy Howard stopped 21 shots for his 21st career shutout for the Red Wings, who won their season-opening game and dropped Toronto to 0-2 with its $50 million coach.
The Maple Leafs lured Babcock away from Detroit with an eight-year contract that more than doubled what any other coach is making is making per season in the league.
Abdelkader scored on Detroit's first shot, making the most of a power play 1:15 into the game. He had another goal midway through the first period off a centring pass from Larkin.
Just 20 seconds into the second period, Larkin lifted a shot from the bottom of the left circle over goalie Jonathan Bernier and his presence paved the way for Abdelkader to score three goals in a game for the second time in his career. Abdelkader became the first Red Wings player to score three times in an opener since Brendan Shanahan did it in 2001, according to STATS, and joined Adam Brown (1945) as the only players who had a hat trick in a season- and home-opening game.
Larkin, a 19-year-old rookie and 2014 first-round pick, drew two defenders as he skated down the middle of the ice and Abdelkader took advantage of the space to score his third goal 3:54 into the second period.
As the crowd roared, Babcock looked down and rubbed his brow.
Bernier made 18 saves for the Maple Leafs.
During a break in the game when Detroit was up 2-0, Babcock and his accomplishments with the Red Wings — a Stanley Cup and 525 wins — were shown on the videoboards and the crowd gave him a standing ovation. Babcock acknowledged the cheers by raising his hands a few times.
The Maple Leafs are paying Babcock an unprecedented amount of money to turn around their once-proud franchise. Toronto, which hasn't hoisted the Stanley Cup since 1967, was among the NHL's worst teams last season and has made the playoffs only once since 2004.
The Red Wings are the only team that has earned a spot in the playoffs every year since the league emerged from a lockout in 2005 — a run that coincided with Babcock's decade in Detroit — and are aiming to be in a 25th straight post-season.
With a mix of veterans and young skaters, such as Larkin, along with a pair of goalies, Detroit seems set up to be relatively successful again this season under first-year coach Jeff Blashill, who was promoted from the American Hockey League's Grand Rapids Griffins.
NOTES: Toronto opened the season Wednesday night with a 3-1 loss at home to Montreal. ... Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said as of Friday night, 36-year-old forward Dan Cleary has refused to report to Grand Rapids after being assigned to the minors. ... Howard had two shutouts last season before losing his job to Petr Mrazek in the playoffs.